Expert Advice

Tips for Saying “I Do” to a Venue

You’ve narrowed down your wedding venues, but how do you make the final call? Go SEE them (and if you can’t, set up a video call to view them!). A site visit is a sure way for you to determine if you can envision your wedding there, and you’ll be able to see first hand the room configurations.

Here are the ten questions to ask before signing on the dotted line:

1. Capacity
How many people can fit and are allowed to fit in the venue - does it fit with your invite list and budget?  

2. Bathrooms
How many? If there are only 2 and you are planning a large wedding you either need to move to the next venue, or if your heart is set there, think of alternative options like luxury mobile restrooms. These aren’t as bad as they sound.

3. Catering
Do they require use of their catering (most hotels will do this) or do you have the flexibility to pick your own caterer and/or your own menu? Hotels are notoriously “menu set” in that you only can pick from their options, which limits you on bringing your personality to the table.

4. Furniture
Does the venue provide furniture (i.e. tables, chairs, linens, glassware)? If not, this will fall on the caterer and could cost more.

5. Staff
What support staff do they provide, if any? If a hotel, expect that they will. If it is a raw venue they’ll probably just provide one representative onsite and maybe security – the rest is up to you. If you don’t have a dedicated planner, consider hiring an outside day-of planner to help everything run smoothly.

6. Staff attire
What does the staff wear? If you have a theme for the event, you may want to ask to add something to that attire.

7. Parking
Where will your guests park? And can you comp or host the valet that evening for your guests if there is only paid parking (read: cities).

8. Ceremony
If you want the ceremony held at the venue, can the venue accommodate the request? Is this something they have done previously?

9. Sunlight
If your ceremony or reception is during daylight hours, where does the sunlight hit the room? Try to visit the venue during a similar time - we’ve been to weddings where this wasn’t considered and you couldn’t even see the bride and groom during the wedding

10. Referrals
Always ask for a couple referrals and talk to them, they’ll help you understand any challenges that they might have had and any pitfalls worth considering now

Photos courtesy of

Music Themes for a Party

I started a Halloween tradition that my son dresses up like a musician. He’s had 3 so far, (The Boss, Baby Mozart and Elton John if you are curious), so we’ll see if this continues. Music can be a great theme for a party. Here are a few to get you started, but the turntable is your oyster - a song, musician or era – fun for young and old alike!


Love this idea for the really young or really old. If old, bring out everything that makes you feel young again – toys, balloons, ice-cream!


Think of a “white party” but with religious (although inoffensive) undertones. You could go a bit goth with the crucifixes, candles, but juxtaposed with lace. And then keep the fun 80s Madonna music pumping so it is more fun than serious.


Bring out your full on patriotism, everyone should be encouraged to wear their red, white and blue, with a little rock influence. Go over the top with everything Americana from farm style seating to flags to Apple Pie and a live musician.


One of my faves, bring on the wigs, petticoats and ensembles to this masterpiece. Consider venues that have a historic feel, and utilize music that has the masters’ influence. Everyone can feel like a lady and gentleman at this formal affair.


Embrace your disco dancer, and add a little subtlety and sophistication to a typical disco party.

Tips For Tulips

With Spring finally here, tulips are popping up all over the place. With so many varieties and colors, you are sure to find the right combination for your next centerpiece or bouquet.

Watch these videos for trimming and styling advice:

Sunset Magazine shares quick tips on how-to work with tulips:

Martha Stewart prepares an arrangement of tulips and shares the history of some of her favorite varieties:

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Liquor Permit for NY Events

Having produced hundreds of events over the past 10 years, when liquor permits come up in locations where alcohol is not always served (i.e. they don't have a liquor license), I always get questions from clients. And further, if they have a sponsor or partner providing free alcohol to help offset the bill, it gets even more confusing!  

Thanks to Robert Severini and BizBash, here's a quick cheat sheet for everyone to review. The donation piece, still gets a little tricky, especially because distributors are involved, but at least this helps navigate the rules a bit better.

A Quick Guide in Helping You Define "Liquor License" vs. "Liquor Permit" for New York Events

Another question that I am asked about often is; "can you provide me with a Liquor Permit for my upcoming event!?" So here are some quick points to avoid future confusion, and additional last minute costs!

Disclaimer: this is merely a guide, based on my direct dealings with the NYSLA for nearly a decade. Everyone should constantly check their website for any updates that that may have been recently listed;


As I sit here waiting for the infamous "Friday Night Happy Hour" to kick-off (much needed for many of us Workaholics); I am reminded of all those people who have recently called for last minute "Liquor Permit Applications." Many of these recent phone calls were from Fashion Week clients. Many people seem to be misinformed on how the Liquor Distributors and Venues through-out New York operate; based on the laws governed by the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA). Here is a quick guide to help inform you of the basics on securing a One Day Liquor Permit (full details can be found here):

  • "Liquor License" is associated with a business' address and lasts two years (most of you would be familiar with restaurants and bars)
  • "Liquor Permit" is a temporary (usually 1-day) document allowing alcoholic products to be brought onto a commercial property that doesn't (or on rare occasions does) have a Liquor License associated with it
  • Beer and Wine Permits - do not require a Liquor License to apply; however, the NYSLA only releases FOUR permits per year at each address


The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law limits the number of Temporary Beer & Wine permits that can be issued for a location to four (4) permits during a 12 month period


The most popular, and easiest to obtain; although not the cheapest...

Caterers' Permit - as caterers, their Liquor License allows them to apply for One DayCaterer's Permits for all of their events that take place on commercial properties, in which the caterers are bringing alcohol onto. Some rules of thumb for acquire such a permit:


  • Applications are supposed to be received by the NYSLA 15-days prior to the event date; sometimes flexible, but not always
  • A Landlord or Property Manager must sign off, and acknowledge that alcohol will be coming on to their property
  • Floor Diagrams listing entrance(s)/exit(s), restroom(s) and bar location(s) are mandatory
  • The local NYPD Precinct is fully informed that said address will have alcohol on property, during said date and time
  • Liquor Permits are per actual bar, per day; not just covering the entire address
  • Copies of the Full Menu are to be provided, as well as served at the event


Food must be provided by applicant (caterer)/licensee, meeting the minimum requirements under §64‐a of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, for example: salads, soups, sandwiches, finger foods. Pretzels and potato chips do not meet the minimum requirements for food.


  • Caterer's Bartenders to serve said alcohol, because their Liquor License is attached to their Liquor Liability Insurance
  • Safety Protocol Listed; no serving minors, no serving intoxicated persons, etc...
  • Caterer to provide all alcohol. However, Charitable Donations require said permit, in order to release said donation, from the Distributors, to the address listed on the Liquor Permit. This doesn't include donations coming from individuals, retail shoppes, or similar.


One last note to consider: caterer's Liquor License is associated to EVERY Liquor Permit they apply for. So are all of the liabilities associated with each event. No business owner is going to risk losing their Liquor License, to do you a "favor." Just some food for thought! Keep sharing the knowledge!

Hoping that this short outline was something that helped clarify some of the finer details of how, and why venues operate when alcohol is being brought on to their properties. Please feel free to reach out directly, should you have any additional questions. Also, I highly suggest sharing this information with others, as I have been getting calls around this, one to three times per week, for the past eight plus years.

Robert A. Severini

"Drink the good wine first"

Click here for article source

Day-Of Planner: Do I Need One?

If you are the “participant-planner” for an upcoming event, meaning you are both participant AND planner of the event, you may be considering hiring a day-of planner. Smart move and here’s why:

1. It’s your event, you should enjoy it, not run it!  A professional event planner has the experience to make sure everything is covered and runs smoothly. Whatever the task - from getting last minute items to the venue to fixing a zipper that just won’t zip (this happens at corporate events too!) - a planner always comes prepared.

2. Vendor Management. You have secured the right partners, now leave it to the planner to ensure they are on time, deliveries are received, and everyone is ready to go.

3. Design Eye: A day-of planner is on-site to make your vision become a reality, giving you time to pull yourself together and step in for any final touches.

4. On-Site Guest Guide: A planner keeps an eye on the details, answering questions (no matter how many times it’s been asked!) and making sure people are where they need to be, when they need to be there!

5. Behind the Scenes:  A planner is behind the scene keeping the schedule on schedule so that you can be enjoying the scene with all your guests!

EventMates offers day-of services for both corporate and private events. Our day-of services start before the event with an in-person meeting with your EventMate. We’ll set up time to get a full download of the event to help execute the plans and details that have taken time, energy and money to pull together.

Strategic Offsites: 5 Steps to Success

Strategic offsites are important for the health of a company. When done right, an offsite establishes a market position, internal alignment on a vision, and actionable steps to making that vision a reality. We asked expert Veronika Sonsev from Chameleon Collective for advice on how to plan a successful strategic offsite. If there's a strategic offsite in your future, this is a must read because her simple steps will make a big difference... 

According to Sun Tsu, the ancient Chinese military strategist, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” These words were just as relevant then as they are now for today’s business leaders. If you’re worrying that your strategic plan is missing part of the picture, or that new entrants are gaining competitive advantage, you most likely need to step back and realign your strategy with the market environment. For many organizations, the catalyst of meaningful change is a strategic offsite.

With a little bit of planning and a few tricks of facilitation, an offsite can transform your business by (1) uncovering market misalignment, (2) finding new opportunities for growth, and (3) aligning your leadership team for execution. The secret of planning a successful offsite can be broken down into five simple steps:


A successful offsite/planning sessions should involve no more than eight people total. Ensure key departments, such as sales, marketing, product, technology and customer service are represented, but inviting too many people will likely impede any productive discussions. Attendees should be the decision-makers — any others who should have input can be consulted before or after the offsite session.

The last essential person is the facilitator, who ensures everyone is engaged, asks probing questions and keeps the agenda on track. If you need help with facilitation, you can contact me or my colleagues at Chameleon Collective [] to help.


Send your decision-makers homework in advance of the offsite. Everyone should review the most recent strategic plan and measure results against goals. You can assign individual executives to each of the following tasks: study the market, collect market feedback (from customer service, sales and/or even a survey), analyze the competition, update your product roadmap and map out your partnerships. The more thorough your prep work, the quicker your leadership team can dig in and take action.


Two-day offsites are ideal: the first day  focuses on the strategic direction and the second day focuses on execution. But, don’t expect to leave the offsite with your strategy all wrapped up and ready to go. Ideas will still require vetting and refining outside of the offsite group, so the second day not only outlines a potential plan, it also assesses what’s missing and creates action items for finalizing the strategic plan.

Here is a sample agenda that I’ve used in the past:


  • Team Introductions
  • Review Current Plan
  • Market: Competitive Analysis
  • Market: Environmental Scan - Where is it going in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years?
  • Alignment with the Market - How do We Win?
  • Discussion on Organization
  • Evening Team Building Activity


  • Thoughts from Yesterday
  • Product Roadmap Analysis
  • Review Partnerships
  • Review Budgets
  • Goal Setting: Converting Strategies Into Company Goals
  • Implementation Plans
  • Individual Goal Measurement
  • Communication Plan

Every agenda item is pertinent to the end goal, but staying on track throughout the day, with so many analytical minds in the same room, can easily be a challenge. Mitigate the chances of disruption by allocating specific times for each topic and, of course, include short breaks for relaxing, resetting and returning calls. Just don’t make the breaks too long so people get completely distracted with other priorities.

Your agenda should also incorporate multiple methods of engagement to ensure everyone on the leadership team has a voice. Some parts of the agenda can be an open discussions, with others better suited to small groups for more productive and cohesive brainstorming. And you’ll never know when arts and crafts may be needed — bring along some supplies, like stickies, in case you need to have a vote or discussion that requires individual, versus collective, opinions. If you know of any communication styles your executives prefer, find a way to incorporate them so all voices are heard and can relate their ideas in an effective and productive manner.


Leave your offsite with plenty of ammo for the next phases, including strategic recommendations, clear action items (each with its own accountable party and due date), and an internal communication plan. Since it’s difficult to finalize your strategy without market and team input, the action items should cover the steps required to quickly research and vet the collective recommendations. People will also want to know what transpired over those two days outside the office, so the attendees need to be prepared to disseminate a cohesive message about the progress, even if the full strategy is not yet finalized. Your communication plan should encompasses instructions for both managing up (e.g., board, corporate management) and managing down (e.g., employees, team).


The work only begins at the offsite. Before leaving, schedule a weekly touch-base meeting with your leadership team to track progress of action items and address any impeding issues. Within 30-45 days of your offsite, you should have a solid draft of the core strategy that can be presented to the broader stakeholders and team.

If set up correctly using this recipe, your two days away should be a productive and effective reset button for the entire team. Skipping the offsite is not an option. In today’s dynamic, rapidly changing market landscape, the only way to win is to constantly re-evaluate your strategy based on where you think the market is going. This means doing a deep dive at least once per year with lighter quarterly reviews.

If you’re putting this off because you don’t have time, give us a shout. Chameleon Collective [] has a strategic assessment and planning program that can easily help. We’ll manage your strategic offsite from concept and planning to day-of facilitation and post offsite execution.

Let us know if we can help, and may your next offsite be a huge success!


Veronica Sonsev is a Partner with Chameleon Collective and also an advisor to a number of startups. She works with B2B clients in retail and digital media to help them accelerate revenue through strategy, marketing and business development.You can find Veronika on Twitter at @vsonsev and on LinkedIn

Partner Spotlight: Comparti Catering

We recently caught up with Lauren Egdahl, catering chef at Comparti Catering and were treated to delightful dishes and discussion. It’s no surprise that her advice is just as delectable as her food. Enjoy!

eventmates comparti catering chef.

eventmates comparti catering chef.

EventMates: Tell us about Comparti

Lauren: We are a young catering company inspired by the energy, flavors, and different cultures of New York City. Comparti is magnetic to the vast talent around us. The city is rich with resources. From our purveyors that help us build chef driven menus to our sleek professional team members that embody the spirit and hustle of this great city we call home. We are continuously curating: getting lost at the market or at vintage consignment shops looking for design pieces. We use this energy to shake the catering world and provide fresh ideas to bring people together and create events truly worth sharing.

EventMates: We'd love to hear about one of your favorite Comparti catered events

Lauren: One of my favorite events was actually my first wedding ever with Comparti. I was a little overwhelmed and nervous to be running the show and was faced with the challenge of cooking for 150 people at a house in the woods of upstate New York, grilling on a fire pit that we had built within a rock enclosure on the premises. For the grand finale, we had made one large Baked Alaska (torched meringue frosted ice cream cake) as the wedding cake, complete with a highly flammable rim, that was torched by the Grooms, in lieu of the typical cake cutting ceremony. While they were torching, we were sending out 150 individual Baked Alaskas for the guests, which was very dramatic and theatrical. There's nothing like successfully working with 1 large fire pit, 1 giant and 150 individual flaming ice cream cakes on a hot September's night to prepare you for the challenges and rewarding work that comes with catering!

EventMates: What food trend should we be paying attention to?

Lauren: Vegetables focused entrees are definitely a thing that I am excited about. Continuing with the growing trend of farm to table, a lot of dishes are now putting vegetables front and center, instead of just an accompaniment to meat. Delicious and nutritious.

On a less healthy note, I am also very excited about whoopie pies. They have been trying to make a breakthrough for years and I am determined to help them on their way to success. Tahini in everything savory and sweet- that nutty flavor is just subtle enough to work almost anywhere!

EventMates: What's the most important catering tip for an event host?

Lauren: I would tell an event host to really think about the guests who will be in attendance. What kind of crowd are they? What vibe are you going for? I think catering to your guests (no pun intended), is the best way to make an event successful and feel organic. Throwing a group of introverts into a room and blasting 90s hip hop with futuristic themed servers passing outrageous canapes may result in an extremely awkward event. Knowing the crowd and working with vendors on the type of event you want to achieve is a great way to make sure that the ambiance, food, and overall flow of the event feels natural and makes people feel at ease to enjoy themselves.

EventMates: Any catering hack you wish to share?

Grills at events. I trust fire always, I do not always trust electricity. Blowing fuses and working with less than desirable rental equipment often times leaves caterers with thinking on their feet and really getting resourceful when it comes to heating food for large crowds. Having a grill (through rentals or the venue) allows you to cook and/or reheat in a predictable and reliable way – aside from when it POURS rain and your grill gets flooded. Always have a backup for the backup.

EventMates: With holiday season quickly approaching, what are some favorite holiday treats?

Lauren: Brazilian Brigadieros are a Comparti obsession – these are chewy, caramel-like bon bons that can be rolled in any variety of toppings. Super delicious and playful.

I also love anything smoked. Sweet or savory. We have an incredible smoked whipped cream that we use for our chocolate bread pudding (tastes like s’mores) and with our sticky toffee date cake with BACON toffee – smokey sweet heaven.

EventMates: Any closing advice for event hosts?

Lauren: I would say working with vendors in their area of expertise is a great way to throw a seamless party. There are a lot of details that the average Joe does not think of when it comes to events – like rental orders, set up feng shui, common food allergy considerations. Talking through the event, discussing what you are looking for and being transparent on budget and expectations, is a way to give vendors a great starting point for helping you plan a successful event.

Checklist for Planning Your Next Corporate Meeting

If you’ve been tasked “planner” of your next corporate offsite or meeting, use this checklist to ensure that your event is on brand and set for success.  


Determine the main goal of the meeting. A good (and quick) assignment for each member of the offsite committee (yes, have an offsite committee!) is to list the following in the order of priority:

  • Educate - something new is being introduced that needs everyone’s attention and participation
  • Motivate - heading into a busy selling season, it’s time to get the team working together to meet the company goals
  • Celebrate - huge wins, high fives for bringing home the gold


Identify what would best reflect the brand, the company culture and the goal you’re setting out to achieve. If the sessions are long, consider the furniture to make sure the seats are comfortable and set up to support the meeting goals (i.e. education = classroom style). Looking for site inspiration in NYC? We have you covered!


One that will remain on time, with Q&A for each session and has time for socialization and discussion built in. Assign someone to capture the key take-aways to recap/share at the end of each day.


Ensure that your menu has variety and healthy options, including good snacks. Is there a celebration one night? Consider a more substantial breakfast for the next day. You can also add items that reflect your brand. I.e., if you have a red dot in your logo, red sour candies in clear vases can decorate your tables.


Is it easy to use and ready for all participants? Plus the smaller touches - Soft-talker? Get a microphone. Screen not visible from all seats? Get another screen and / or reserve the “obstructed view” for support staff. Powercords? Get more. You don’t want participants sitting on the floor. Wifi? Make sure it’s strong enough. It’s the #1 complaint of most conferences.


Create a survey to be shared at the completion of the meeting. Include general questions to capture any culture shifts. Some good questions include: I have confidence in the future of this company;  I have confidence in the leadership of this company, etc.


Think of ways you can make participants more comfortable throughout the meeting. Create a “running club” for the mornings or secure spots at the yoga studio nearby. For the person who has to get to the airport before the meeting ends, have a car service scheduled, space to store their bags and a to-go bag with food for their trip. 

EXPERT ADVICE: How to Plan Your Office Holiday Party

It’s that time of year again, and believe it or not it’s starting to get late to plan your corporate holiday party. The top restaurants book up well in advance, so it’s time to get the ball rolling. We asked one of the EventMates founders, Diane Nicoletti, to share tips on pulling together a Corporate Holiday Party and here’s what she had to say.

EventMates: How much should I budget for a holiday party?

Diane: If you are going outside of your office, which I’d definitely encourage to make it special, you should budget at least $15,000 for a small 50 person event, and then from there add on at least $100 per person. This gives you the budget to make it unique to your team – venue, food & beverage, entertainment, design & décor and a planner to help you plan the whole shebang!

EventMates: Where should I have it?

Diane: I personally love the Splacer options. They offer access to unique raw spaces where you have more flexibility to design it to your liking - including your selection of food and drink and your company’s style.  If you are looking for more of a restaurant or party venue, you should really think about what is going to resonate with your employees. This year, Carol Karaoke is a big theme and in NYC two of my favorite spots to host such an event are Brooklyn Bowl and Rider in BK. They are for the more casual crowd ready to sing! For the more traditional crowd, we’re seeing a lot of sit down dinners - family style, “Tasting and Toasting” - at more upscale venues that are sure to make employees feel special. Like anything know your audience to assess the best space.

EventMates: What do I need to book in advance vs. what can wait?

Diane: Venue is your starting point (last reminder, book now!). It will dictate what the décor will be, what the caterer will need to bring in (or what menu they already provide), your capacity/guest list, and any other rentals. Bringing on a planner early on can save you time and money.

EventMates: Caterers – when should I use a caterer and what kinds of caterers should I use?

Diane: If it is a raw space a caterer is a must. For a holiday party, this is a fun area to splurge a bit because it’s what everyone remembers! Consider bringing in specialized mixologists to create a drink specifically for your company, or even a menu themed to the holiday or your brand! Good caterers can have a lot of fun with it in addition to having great food. Keep in mind, the holiday season is a busy time for them, so get your creative ideas in early so they can dedicate that time to you to make your wishes come true!

EventMates: Décor – What are some of your favorite holiday décor ideas?

Diane: I’m a huge fan of warm, cozy winter décor. Instead of opting for the traditional red and green, play up the “winter” theme. This can be done a few ways, personally I just love what I call “winter warmth” using wood, evergreens, winter white and rustic textures. This of course doesn’t fly for everyone, some might prefer a black and gold look to embrace the holidays; but winter warmth is my personal fave!

EventMates:  Theming it out to our Company – should I make it about us or should I just embrace the holiday?

Diane: If you’ve had a great year, some big news/product launches or expansions, absolutely, celebrate those accomplishments with the folks that got you there. You could also make it less a theme but little subtle touches around the event to give nods to the accomplishments! For instance, maybe a new product launched that made all the news, use photos of that as a holiday card and place it in frames around the bar, or in glass enclosed highboys. You probably want to refrain from pinpointing any one individual or group of individuals so everyone feels special, but it wouldn’t be wrong to tout the overall company success at a holiday celebration.

EventMates: How much time do I need to plan for the party?

Diane: Once you get the venue and caterer, you really only need about 2 months to get the rest in place. And we’d certainly recommend locking in your venue & caterer as soon as possible!

EventMates: What are your quick 5 things to remember when planning a holiday party?


Remember your guests – what is going to be fun for them and make them feel most comfortable


Don’t try and do it all yourself – hire a planner to help you through the details


Venue is key – book as early as possible


Have fun with catering


Don’t forget the programming and décor to get everyone in the spirit


Everyone has faced the inspiration challenge where you just run out of ideas and it takes a lot of work to find it! We sat down with some of our event planners to get the inside scoop on where they turn when they need inspiration. We pulled our favorites that sparked our creativity and hope they do the same for you!  


Pinterest is my go-to. I am officially pin-obsessed with BEHANCE. The creative work they feature - from architecture to furniture - is a great place to kick start any project. It’s their mission to make ideas happen. Mission accomplished.

Image borrowed from Pinterest Behance

Image borrowed from Pinterest Behance


I turn to Tumblr for inspiration. I recently designed an event around VR. The moodboard I created with images I found on Tumblr helped the client not only grasp the concept but rally behind it. Tumblr images haven’t been used a million times over (I’m looking at you Pinterest) and really get you thinking.


Here's how I approach it. I find an image that best represents what I’m looking for, pin it and let Pinterest do its magic to pull images similar to it.  Efficient and effective. I always discover something new when I do.  I’m also a die-hard fan of The Cool Hunter and This is Colossal. Both feed my brain and have been known to unleash the inner genius.

Image borrowed from The Cool Hunter

Image borrowed from The Cool Hunter

Image borrowed from This Is Colossal

Image borrowed from This Is Colossal